Two years into the pandemic, wealth, poverty, and race still dramatically affect the toll that coronavirus takes on people, with Latinos and black communities in LA County still being hit significantly harder than the richer whites.
Data analyzed by Los Angeles County public health officials showed disturbing inequalities in the disproportionate toll COVID-19 caused for black and Latino residents, as well as people living in poorer neighborhoods.
The results underscore how much poorer and largely black and Latino neighborhoods in LA County suffer if the improvement in pandemic trends is suddenly reversed as mask commands lightnessor the need for prompt action comes if a new variant emerges.
“These data on hospitalizations and deaths are alarming,” Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in LA County, said at a board meeting Tuesday. “We need to ensure that our post-wave actions do not widen the gaps by failing to provide additional resources and protection to those most at risk of COVID-19 hospitalization and death.”
Between January 29 and February 11, for every 100,000 unvaccinated residents of every race or ethnic group, 74 Latinos and 60 blacks were hospitalized for COVID-19, while 43 white and 30 Asian Americans were hospitalized.
In other words, unvaccinated Latino and black residents are at least twice as likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 as unvaccinated Asian American Angelenos.
These racial and ethnic differences continued even among vaccinated people who received their booster shots. For every 100,000 vaccinated and boosted residents, 13 Latinos and 11 blacks were hospitalized, while five white and three Asian American residents remained.
“These differences reflect in part higher rates of underlying health conditions among black and brown residents due to inadequate access to health-confirming resources. And they are also likely to reflect differences in COVID exposure based on where individuals live and work,” Ferrer said. vaccination status lives in an area with high poverty was associated with a significantly higher risk of hospitalization. “
Many black and Latino residents, as well as low-income residents, in LA County live in areas with less access to resources such as hospitals and pharmacies.
“It is really clear that where you live and where you work has an impact on your state of health. It’s no different for COVID than it is for a host of other diseases, “Ferrer said at a briefing last week.” Where you live certainly has a huge impact on what is available to help you be as healthy as possible. “
Many Latino and black residents live in areas where officials for generations have neglected residents’ public health, in part because of a legacy of racism and discrimination. Neighborhoods such as South LA, southeast LA County and East side is covered by a network of highways that emit toxic pollution, increasing the risk of asthma and other chronic conditions that puts these residents at greater risk for COVID-19 complications.
Residents living in overcrowded homes where it is easier for a highly contagious airborne virus to spread are also more vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition, many lower incomes, as well as black and Latino residents, have to physically leave home to work in a front-line job where the risk of being exposed to coronavirus is higher.
People living in richer areas, on the other hand, have had a number of benefits during the pandemic: better access to hospitals, a greater chance of living in overcrowded homes and cleaner air thanks to the lack of nearby highways (Beverly Hills and South Pasadena memorable fought from the construction of highways through their cities).
These systemic, structural problems of living somewhere close to highways can quickly result in worse COVID-19 results. For example, air pollution can be exacerbated asthma symptoms. It is more likely that blacks, Latinos and Indians across the country lie from asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. And people suffering from asthma are at greater risk of getting serious illness or death from COVID-19, Ferrer said.
Disturbing differences have also been seen in COVID-19 deaths. Between January 23 and February 5, 47 Latino residents died for every 100,000 unvaccinated residents in each racial and ethnic group, compared to 32 whites, 22 blacks and 16 Asian Americans.
Among those vaccinated and boosted, three Latinos and two black residents died for every 100,000 people, compared to one each among white and Asian Americans.
There were also astonishing COVID-19 differences based on socioeconomic status and where people lived. From January 29 to February 4, eight people living in the county’s richest areas died for every 100,000 unvaccinated residents divided into groups according to their area’s poverty status, compared to 76 in the county’s poorest areas.
And even among vaccinated and boosted residents, inequalities remained: For every 100,000 inhabitants, one died in the richest areas, while three died in the poorest areas.
“It is clear that living in areas of high poverty puts people at risk for a higher COVID-19-related serious illness and death,” Ferrer said. “Despite the strong protection afforded by vaccines, being vaccinated alone was not an equalizer for people living in areas of high poverty. Where people live and work clearly has a huge impact on their risk of exposure and accessibility. of health-confirming resources. “
The different effects of COVID-19 on black and brown communities as well as low-income areas are likely to explain the dynamics of the LA County Board of Supervisors, which has been divided on how fast to lift indoor mask mandate in the country’s most populous county.
Of the five supervisors, Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell – the only Latina and Black representatives respectively – have in recent weeks supported efforts to keep the county’s mask mandate in place for a few weeks longer, and have routinely expressed concern about the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on their constituents. Solis and Mitchell were elected from districts that have highest poverty rates and lowest median household income according to an analysis published by LA County Economic Development Corp. in 2017.
A third supervisor who has supported a slower abolition of mask mandates, Sheila Kuehl, was elected from a district that has a poverty rate and median household income between the richest and poorest districts.
In contrast, supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn were elected from districts with the lowest poverty rates and the highest median income for the household. Both have been outspoken about easing mask mandates to be just as gentle as permitted by the state. They say they get a lot of complaints from residents who want mask mandates to be lifted sooner.